President Donald Trump’s national security team is considering building a government-owned 5G network to counter the threat of Chinese spying, according to a new report.
Details of the tentative plans were first published by Axios, which obtained a copy of a PowerPoint presentation reportedly produced by a senior National Security Council official. Axios wrote that the PowerPoint deck was presented to senior officials in other federal agencies.
A top Trump administration official confirmed the news to Reuters on Sunday, but added that the discussions were taking place at “a low level.” Any plans are six to eight months away from being considered by Trump himself, they added.
5G is the common name for a next-generation wireless technology that would allow significantly improved speeds and coverage over current networks.
The super-fast, government 5G network is apparently being considered as an option designed to counter the threat of Chinese spying on U.S. phone calls. Reportedly, the emphasis is protecting U.S. economic and interest security interests that would be reliant on 5G technology — such as the Internet of Things and self-driving vehicles.
Notably, the network would be built out and owned by the federal government, which would then rent the infrastructure to U.S.-based carriers. That’s a sharp departure from the way things are now: internet providers typically build their own network infrastructure and lease airwaves from the government.
Not everyone in the Trump administration is onboard with the idea, however. On Monday, Trump-appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai expressed his opposal in a statement.
“Any federal effort to construct a nationalized 5G network would be a costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future,” Pai wrote.
The telecom industry is already rolling out its own plans for a 5G future. But, while companies are paving the way for their own 5G networks, widespread adoption of the technology is still years away.
The plan raises a handful of questions about how the government would build the network, and which airwaves it would use to power it. But federal 5G could, in theory, let smaller companies gain a competitive advantage by renting 5G capacity and offering service at lower prices.